After an opening weekend which saw the big sides underwhelm, as well as some surprises, the second weekend of the season provides the opportunity for more action and shocks. There is a potential title decider (already!), big money signings that could make their debuts, and the first Friday night match since 2003. Here are four things to watch out for in this weekend’s fixtures.
Battle of the billionaires
The big match up this weekend is Man City hosting Chelsea. City opened their season up in style on Monday, thrashing West Brom 3-0.They dominated the match and saw three of their key players all find the net. In contrast, Chelsea kicked off in disappointing fashion, twice throwing away a lead and looking generally not ready for the start of the season. The poor performance seems to have been generally forgotten about though, as ‘medic-gate’ has taken centre stage this week. The Etihad has not been a happy hunting ground for Chelsea, who have just one of their last seven visits to the blue side of Manchester in all competitions. Last season the result was a 1-1 draw, but after their performances so far, the money would be on City.
After failing to sign him once already this summer, Stoke announced the signing of Xherdan Shaqiri on Tuesday. The club record signing is due to make his debut this weekend as the Potters visit Tottenham. Shaqiri joins an exotic Stoke squad including the likes of Ibrahim Afellay and Marco van Ginkel, who both debuted in the loss against Liverpool. Boss Mark Hughes is adamant that although money was a factor, Shaqiri has joined for the opportunity to play week in, week out. Spurs also suffered a 1-0 loss on the opening day, and will look for an improved performance in front of their own fans. The new defensive partnership of Vertonghen and Alderweirald looked solid, limiting Man United to just one shot on target. Stoke did the double over Spurs last season, but with their new look squad may still need time to gel. Spurs still seem to lack the attacking flair needed to take maximum points, so a draw looks the most likely result.
Arsenal to bounce back?
The optimism around Arsenal’s title bid was burst emphatically by their defeat to West Ham last week. Petr Cech will want to forget that match as soon as possible, and start proving why his signing was seen as the catalyst for a title challenge. Alexis Sanchez should also return after he has been rested after his Copa America exploits to add some potency to the attack. Palace opened up with a 3-1 win at Norwich, but things could have been different if Cameron Jerome’s overhead kick had been allowed at 2-1. Arsenal played narrowly against West Ham, and this could be exploited by a Palace team whose strength is out wide. The pace of Zaha, Bolasie and Puncheon could cause problems for Arsenal’s full backs, and Yohann Cabaye could be a tough opponent for Francis Coquelin. Palace haven’t beaten Arsenal in their last 11 meetings, and this game should go with form.
Leicester’s 4-2 thumping of Sunderland looked to have been the shock of the weekend last week, with no-one knowing what to expect in Claudio Ranieri’s first game. But their status as the weekend’s top shock was taken in some fashion by West Ham. Reece Oxford took the plaudits for that result, with the sixteen year old’s assured performance leading to many in the media viewing him as the second coming. But their performances in the Europa League, when playing a full strength side, left much to be desired, so it is up to them to prove that the Arsenal game was not a one off. Leicester have a terrible record visiting London in the Premier League, but the opening weekend’s optimism could lead to both sides cancelling each other out.
Predictions in full:
Aston Villa 0-2 Manchester United (Friday 14th, 19:45, Sky Sports 1)
Southampton 2-1 Everton (Saturday 15th, 12:45, BT Sport 1)
Sunderland 0-1 Norwich
Swansea 2-1 Newcastle
Tottenham 1-1 Stoke
Watford 1-2 West Brom
West Ham 1-1 Leicester
Crystal Palace 1-2 Arsenal (Sunday 16th, 13:30, Sky Sports 1)
Manchester City 2-1 Chelsea (Sunday 16th, 16:00, Sky Sports 1)
Liverpool 2-0 Bournemouth (Monday 17th, 20:00, Sky Sports 1)
*Saturday 15:00 kick off unless stated